Breast Cancer (Malignant Breast Neoplasm) is a malignant tumor that starts from cells of the breast, most commonly from the inner lining of milk ducts or the lobules that supply the ducts with milk. A malignant tumor is a group of cancer cells that may grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body.
Breast cancer is an uncontrolled growth of breast cells. To better understand breast cancer, it helps to understand how any cancer can develop.
Cancer occurs as a result of mutations or abnormal changes, in the genes responsible for regulating the growth of cells and keeping them healthy. The genes are in each cell's nucleus, which acts as the "control room" of each cell. Normally, the cells in our bodies replace themselves through an orderly process of cell growth: healthy new cells take over as old ones die out. But over time, mutations can "turn on" certain genes and "turn off" others in a cell. That changed cell gains the ability to keep dividing without control or order, producing more cells just like it and forming a tumor.
A tumor can be benign (not dangerous to health) or malignant (has the potential to be dangerous). Benign tumors are not considered cancerous: their cells are close to normal in appearance, they grow slowly, and they do not invade nearby tissues or spread to other parts of the body. Malignant tumors are cancerous. Left unchecked, malignant cells eventually can spread beyond the original tumor to other parts of the body.
To understand breast cancer, it helps to have some basic knowledge about the normal structure of the breasts. The female breast is made up mainly of lobules (milk-producing glands), ducts (tiny tubes that carry the milk from the lobules to the nipple) and stroma (fatty tissue and connective tissue surrounding the ducts and lobules, blood vessels and lymphatic vessels).
Most breast cancers begin in the cells that line the ducts (ductal cancers). Some begin in the cells that line the lobules (lobular cancers), while a small number start in other tissues.
Over time, cancer cells can invade nearby healthy breast tissue and make their way into the underarm lymph nodes, small organs that filter out foreign substances in the body. If cancer cells get into the lymph nodes, they then have a pathway into other parts of the body. The breast cancer's stage refers to how far the cancer cells have spread beyond the original tumor.
Breast cancer is always caused by a genetic abnormality (a "mistake" in the genetic material). However, only 5-10% of cancers are due to an abnormality inherited from your mother or father. About 90% of breast cancers are due to genetic abnormalities that happen as a result of the aging process and the "wear and tear" of life in general.
While there are steps every person can take to help the body stays as healthy as possible (such as eating a balanced diet, not smoking, limiting alcohol, and exercising regularly).
Symptoms of Breast Cancer
Breast Cancer is the most common form of cancer after lung cancer. It is not confined to only women though they are more prone. It is very difficult to detect breast cancer with naked eyes because breast cancer may not cause any symptoms. A lump may be too small for you to feel or to cause any unusual changes you can notice on your own. Often, an abnormal area turns up on a screening mammogram (x-ray of the breast), which leads to further testing.
Firstly you should look for a lump formation surrounding nipples of the breast. In 80% cases you can feel the lump with some pain along with it when touched. Lumps in the armpit and on the collar bones can also indicate breast cancer. A lump that is painless, hard and has uneven edges is more likely to be cancer. But sometimes cancers can be tender, soft and rounded.
Another symptom of a complex type breast cancer is Pegat's disease of the breast. This is characterized by the excessive itching, tingling, burning and pain near the lump.
Occasionally, the symptoms of metastatic disease, i.e the cancer that has a spread beyond the original organ are also an indicative of breast cancer. The common sites of metastatis are bone, lungs and brain. Unexplained weight loss and a pain near the collar, repeated fevers and chills are the symptoms as well.
Whenever you notice a sudden outbreak of anyone of these consult the nearest oncologist, because the faster the detection the more is the chance of speedy recovery. Prognosis and survival rate varies greatly depending on cancer type and staging. Remember the rate of survival from this cancer is considerably high compared to other types of cancer.
Breast Cancer Risk Factors
A "risk factor" is anything that increases your risk of developing breast cancer. Many of the most important risk factors for breast cancer are beyond our control, such as age, gender, family history and medical history. However, there are some risk factors we can control, such as weight, diet, smoking, physical activity and alcohol consumption.
Be sure to talk with your doctor about all of your possible risk factors for breast cancer. There may be steps you can take to lower your risk of breast cancer and your doctor can help you come up with a plan. Your doctor also needs to be aware of any other risk factors beyond your control, so that he has an accurate understanding of your level of breast cancer risk. This can influence recommendations about breast cancer screening - what tests to have and when to start having them.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding reduce the overall number of menstrual cycles in a woman's lifetime and this appears to reduce future breast cancer risk. Women, who have never had a full-term pregnancy or had their first full-term pregnancy after age 30, have an increased risk of breast cancer. For women who do have children, breastfeeding may slightly lower their breast cancer risk, especially if they continue breastfeeding for 1 1/2 to 2 years. For many women, however, breastfeeding for this long is not possible.
Breast cancer self diagnosis is the most effective way to diagnose the disease at an early stage. Unfortunately, not all are aware of the breast self exam process, thus it sometimes complicates things and the treatment.
Breast Cancer Self Diagnosis is a technique which women and does to ensure an early detection of the cancer. We all know that, not all cancer is detected this way but doing these yourselves can help in the prevention of complications. The more you do the self diagnosis, the more you will be open to possibilities and the more you would be aware of any abnormalities. Doing the breast cancer diagnosis is recommended for women whose age is from 20-50. Although most women feel awkward in doing the procedure, but it has to be done for preventive measures.
Women whose age is beyond 50 should have an annual check up. It is a fact that breast cancers are detected by health officials in the clinic. Self diagnosis should be done before going to the clinic for you to have an idea and diagnose it yourself.
Five Step Breast cancer self Diagnosis
Breast cancer self Diagnosis Step 1
Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.
Breasts should have the usual size, shape and color without any swelling visible. If there are puckering, dimpling or bulging on the skin or if the nipple has changed position or an inverted nipple, redness, soreness, rash and swelling, you need to consult your doctor fast.
Breast cancer self Diagnosis Step 2
Raise your arms and look for the same changes as mentioned in Breast cancer self Diagnosis Step 1
Breast cancer self Diagnosis Step 3
Squeeze the nipple one by one between your thumb and finger and check for any discharge from the nipple.
If there is a discharge like of a milky type or a yellow fluid or even blood, immediately consult your doctor.
Breast cancer self Diagnosis Step 4
On a flat surface lie down and feel your breast. Touch it with the first few fingers smoothly and firmly while keeping the fingers together. Examine the breast are from top to the base, from he collarbone to the abdomen, from the armpit to the cleavage and all from side to side. You can start from your nipples going out in circles to the edge. Make sure that the breast tissues are felt by your fingers.
If you feel a lump or a swelling or an abnormal tissue growth, seek medical advice immediately.
Breast cancer self Diagnosis Step 5
Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower or apply oil for convenience. Cover your entire breast, using the same hand movements described in Breast cancer self Diagnosis Step 4.
Note: A pink ribbon is a symbol of breast cancer awareness. It may be worn to honor those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.